August 16, 2013
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Doc was just getting up to leave the philosophy counter as Herb walked in. Herb was grinning and flexing muscles and had the look of eagles in his eyes. We stared.
It was the cold outside that bound us together better inside the Mule Barn truck stop.
The whole thing began right after the first good snow this year.
“I can’t stand winter,” said Herb Collins, who had dropped in at the Mule Barn’s philosophy counter for a quick cup. “There’s nothing to do.”
Windy had sent off for a doo-dad for his small kitchen, and that’s why he checked the mailbox.
When it comes to romance, it’s hard to beat ol’ Dud.
For years now, Herb Collins has been helping Santa by donning the red and the beard and the tassels and waving to passing cars on Christmas Eve out at the Old Fort Road crossing.
There is a nighttime sweetness and hope that hovers over us this time of year here at home.
“Hey Doc,” said Herb, reading the latest copy of the Valley Weekly Miracle, “did you see all these specials they’re having in the city? Just for the Friday after Thanksgiving, too. You know, a guy could get a lot of Christmas shopping done then and save some money.”
Steve will have Thanksgiving dinner over at Doc’s and Mrs. Doc’s this year, and any number of his friends are grateful for that. Steve is one heckuva cowboy and trainer of young colts, and a good friend to all, but he’d never make it as a dinner host.
Windy looked out the window. A great day for helping.
Dewey Decker, that accident-prone neighbor of ours, is the undisputed Pharoah of Fertilizer, the Monarch of Manure. He has turned a shovel-ready business into a going concern, with the help of the woman of his dreams, Emily.
To look at Herb Collins, you wouldn’t think he was like that. A nicer, kinder guy you never met. But for one evening each year … one little slice of time … he’s downright diabolical.
It was a contemplative kind of morning, each member of the vaunted World Dilemma Think Tank seemed to be content to think silently for a change, just sipping on the coffee refills and waiting for Loretta to bring more.
We can blame it all on watermelon and pumpkin pie.
There’s something so satisfying about getting out of bed when the world is still dark and quiet and resting. Making the coffee gives us time to scratch and think.
When we first noticed the baby sparrow, here at the house, it saddened us all.
In honor of his entirely fictional pet squirrel, Doc is calling the annual golf tournament the Chipper Invitational this year.
It comes to us slowly and delicately, as all beautiful things should. It’s usually in the early morning.
Every hunter knows places to look for in the woods ... places where game is more likely to be approached or surprised. It’s that way with Windy Wilson, too. Windy is a hunter, but he just hunts audiences, and he does believe in the catch-and-release system.
We walked quietly out and looked toward the west. It seems as though everyone did.
Harley pulled the tractor over to the ditch and cut the engine. He climbed down stiffly, walked to the water and soaked his head and shirt.
Dud Campbell, our resident would-be novelist, was busy on his day off. Anita watched him excitedly as he removed something from the box that had arrived.
Things were going kinda slow down at the Fly Tying Love Center and it bothered Marvin Pincus a lot.
Like a doctor removing something important, Herb Collins gently peeled the wrapper back from the root ball and tenderly placed the baby tree in the hole. Then he stood and walked around it to see which way he should align it. Actually, looks pretty good just the way it is.
Windy Wilson was on the prowl, this beautiful Independence Day morning, searching the neighborhood for something to do for others.
On a good, warm Saturday morning you have your choice here in our valley: yard saling or livestock saling.
Dud sat at the computer and went over the several hundred pages of his novel for three straight days.
“What do you figure he’ll weigh now, Doc?” said Steve.
“You seem kinda low this morning, Sweetie,” Marjorie said.
Delbert’s at it again. You know Delbert McLain, our local chamber of commerce? He’s the guy who wants to bring lots of people here so the place isn’t quite as nice as it is now.
The focus group broke up after an hour-and-a-half with laughter and full tummies and hugs and handshakes. Dewey got his tie clip caught on Mrs. Doc’s sweater as she hugged him, but that was his only physical disaster and it was a minor one.
The problem Marvin Pincus had yesterday was simply time.
“How about a television ad,” Steve said during the manure-and-worm free lunch focus group, “that shows a cartoon of a worm with a happy smile on his face? You know, you can have him munching on manure, and then producing ….”
When old Ben died recently, the town was saddened, but probably not for the usual reasons.
Dewey and Emily were the first to finish their lunches, and the two sweethearts whispered together at the nearby coffee machine while the rest of the valley’s first focus group finished up.
Emily led the group of five into the Mule Barn, through the coffee shop itself, and into what is known locally as “the banquet room” when it isn’t being used for storage.
Doc smiled and felt really good inside when he heard the familiar bird song.
As a prequel to the morning coffee inhalation down at the Mule Barn coffee shop, the members of the world dilemma think tank were found at the break of day, armed with fly rods, in their other guise as charter members of the Lewis Creek Piscatorial Pursuit Alliance.
Herb walked into O’Dontal Dental the other day, holding his hand against a swollen face. He hadn’t even made an appointment to see Perry first, and it became obvious why he hadn’t.
If there’s one thing you can honestly say about Delbert McLain, he’s as persistent as a winter cough.
The subject was love, of course, with Valentine’s Day upon us last week, and that’s why the grizzled and semi-grizzled members of the world dilemma think tank had settled upon it. Well, to be fair, they agreed to talk about someone else’s love life, naturally.
Our resident cowboy, Steve, brought us the shocking news: cowpuncher Three-Chord Cortez, that bunkhouse balladeer, plans to study opera, in hopes an aria or three will make him even more attractive to girls during a serenade.
Whenever my lack of mechanical prowess threatens to surface, I sure miss the solenoid.
If you ask Dud Campbell, it’s all right to take a break from the arts now and then.
One thing about cold: it drives folks indoors.
Day started slowly, after Steve and Snort were already through two big pastures and into the birth of the hills. Sure was pretty, too, he noticed.
You have to look for the schism, Jasper said to himself out at the woodpile. He put another chunk of firewood up on the splitting block and took a look at the checking cracks that ran part way through the circles of age rings.
Herb tried on the Santa suit this morning.
There is a secret selfish longing we all share this time of year.
Janice Thomas hasn’t been the valley’s most innovative art teacher since the invention of dirt for nothing, you know.
“You see that sunset last night?” Steve said. “Now that was a honey.”
There were two little boys down at the Doughnut Hole Café the other day, standing outside, just waiting.
It was a bright morning, and we had finished off the coffee and conversation at the Mule Barn truck stop, and we couldn’t think of anything much to do because we were still full from breakfast and it was too early for lunch, and the political problems and Hollywood gossip tanks had been thoroughly topped off.
Sure was good to see Jimmy back from the Middle East last week. He looks good in that uniform, too.
A building project (for those of us who are carpenterially challenged) can be a confusing nightmare of little whatchits we never learned the name of and have no idea how to use.
Dud Campbell could feel it in the mornings … the cool breeze on the skin, the slight chill in the air, the messages nature sent to tell us autumn is here.
The evening was one of those that come back to you time after time, year after long year. It comes back and whispers of how good life can be when you’re well fed, enjoying life, and a good friend shares the front porch with you on a summer’s evening.
“Sanctimonious siphons, it’s hot!” said Dud, sitting at the philosophy counter and turning over his coffee cup for action with a single smooth move. Dud is a regular at the Mule Barn truck stop’s legendary world dilemma think tank.